Smoking is now banned at Madonna concerts—a new rule enforced by the star herself. After performing “Human Nature” for a soundcheck in Santiago, Chile, the wind and rain turned her umbrella inside out, drawing laughs from the crowd. Some storm clouds of her own then brewed, and Madge lashed out with a rant against cigarette-wielding fans. "There are people smoking right now," she began. "No smoking. If you're going to smoke cigarettes, I'm not doing a show—fuck you. You don't care about me; I don't care about you. All right? Are we going to play that game? I'm not kidding. I can't sing if you smoke." Dressed uncharacteristically in a giant coat and baggy sweatpants, she broke briefly into Spanish, pointing at the crowd: “Entiendes? You know what? If you love me, then don't smoke. No smoking. You're looking right at me while you're smoking cigarettes like I'm a stupid fucking idiot,” she said, before flouncing off stage. She did, however, go on to perform that evening. Her attack on smokers might be seen as ironic considering that the name of her current tour—"MDNA"— is inspired by a drug. Deadmau5 criticized her for asking an audience if anyone had “seen Molly.” And of course Madonna has previously glamorized smoking.
Sao Paulo is the latest major South American city to see its drug war spiral out of control. The conflict there between police officers and a drug trafficking gang known as the Primeiro Comando da Capital has led to a huge increase in police deaths. So far in 2012, 102 officers have been killed in Sao Paulo—nearly twice the total number killed across the US in 2010. It's unclear how many PCC members have been killed, but arresting them does little good: most of the group's leaders already carry out their business in jail. Between 6,000 and 13,000 members are estimated to be behind bars, and they're thought to control 135 of the city's 152 prisons. The PCC also ranks as a major security threat to the Pope's visit next year, the soccer World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics. “For all of us, the military and the police, this is something very important, to be ready to face those threats,” says Alvoro de Souza Pinheiro, a security analyst and retired army major general. Guaracy Mingardi, a public security expert in Sao Paulo, says that the PCC controls more than half of the crack, cocaine and marijuana trade in the city. There are members as far away as Bolivia—the source of 80% of the cocaine in Brazil. Analysts say that the tide turned somewhat in favor of the police after a battle between law enforcement forces and the PCC last May, in which cops killed six PCC members and the gang retaliated with more murders of policemen. But the police must refrain from making a formal truce if they're to avoid comparisons with Rio—where 63 cops were recently arrested for their involvement in drug trafficking. "[If that happens], you will have to start asking questions about when does this become a situation like Italy, where organised crime and the state are so well interlinked that one can’t disarticulate one from the other," says Graham Denyer Willis, a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who studies the PCC.
GOP Speaker of the House John Boehner is known around the capital as a guy who likes his cocktails. Also an inveterate smoker (he's a Camel Ultra Lights man), the former Ohio businessman even started pulling shifts at the bar his family owned when he was just eight years old. (Does that sound like the start of a great 12-step "qualification," or what?) So all that might lead one to be surprised when last night, while announcing that he would withdraw, for lack of support, his so-called "Plan B" to avert the coming "fiscal cliff," Boehner invoked the Serenity Prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Who would ever have believed the Speaker would admit—in public, no less—his own powerlessness? But before anyone jumps to conclusions and decides that this means John B. has jumped on the water wagon, it's worth noting that, as The Fix previously reported, the Serenity Prayer has not always been exclusively associated with Alcoholics Anonymous; in fact, it was originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1943, as a way of grappling with his and other German emigres' powerlessness in the face of the Nazi menace.
- Rogue Pharmacists Feed Addiction [LA Times]
- Opium Cultivation Rose This Year in Afghanistan, UN Survey Shows [New York Times]
- Detroit Medical Marijuana Bill Changes Draw Last-Minute Support [Detroit Free Press]
- Marines' New Acohol Policy Strictest in US Military [Washington Times]
- British Woman Spared Death Penalty Over Alleged Cocaine Smuggling in Bali [The Guardian]
- Man "Drunk on Vodka" With Cigarette Forces Qantas Emergency Landing, Costs Airline $120k [News.com.au]
- Shaquille O'Neal to Launch "Luv Shaq" Vodka [LA Times]
LeAnn Rimes' “uneven and uncomfortable” performance (below) in a duet on the X-Factor last night has provoked suspicions that the country singer was intoxicated. Rimes stumbled on a flight of stairs when contestant Carly Rose Sonenclar welcomed her onto the stage for a duet of “How Do I Live Without You,” and gripped Sonenclar tightly during the performance. “Oh my God I love this girl so much. She's such an amazing talent I wanna just wrap her up and just hold her!” gushed Rimes about her duet-partner afterwards, prompting judge Mario Lopez to exclaim: “Well you're doin' it!” Rumors of her drunkenness have swirled online, with fans pointing out that Rimes' voice lacked its “usual strength.” But the singer denies the allegations, claiming her unusual performance was an attempt to make the young contestant feel more comfortable. “I was trying to help this 13-year-old girl who was having trouble with this song,” she says. Her lawyer, Larry Stein, chimes in: “LeAnn was not performing the way she would normally perform because she was on stage with a young girl.” The country star was recently accused by her husband's ex, Brandi Glanville, of being a drug addict who "drinks like a fish;" she spent 30 days in treatment for anxiety and stress last August.
After the tragic school shooting last Friday in Newton, Connecticut, the ongoing debate over gun control in the US has flared up yet again—and, according to UMass economist Arin Dube, what President Obama and Congress decide to do (or not) about these weapons could have repercussions in Mexico's ongoing drug war. According to Dube, after the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004, Mexican towns across the border from Arizona and Texas saw an uptick in gun violence, as the cartels armed themselves with this newly legal, high-powered weaponry. Yet the same thing did not happen in border towns near California, which maintained its own state-level ban on assault weapons. So it stands to reason that, if tighter restrictions were placed on guns in the US, the cartels might once again find it more difficult to get their hands on the deadliest weapons. But not everyone agrees, as Mexican Institute for Competitiveness analyst Alejandro Hope recently told National Public Radio's Marketplace Morning Report program. Violence near the US/Mexico border has many sources, Hope said: "It has to do with the shape and structure of drug markets. It has to do with Mexican government policy."